Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced her legislative agenda for 2017, including the first bills she has introduced in the 115th Congress.
These bills seek to protect California’s desert and ocean, ensure juvenile victims of sex crimes can seek justice, close a loophole that allows wealthy cabinet officials to profit off government service and create an independent commission to investigate Russian inference in U.S. elections.
Feinstein also plans to introduce several other bills in the coming months, including:
- Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bill to update the nearly 80-year-old safety rules for personal care products like shampoo, deodorant and cosmetics.
- Consumer Drone Safety Act, a bill to give the FAA clear authority to issue safety rules governing the use and manufacture of recreational drones.
- Reporting Online Terrorist Activity Act, a bill to require technology companies report online terrorist activity.
- Homeless Children and Youth Act, a bill to remove barriers to homeless children and families accessing federal assistance programs.
Information on the bills already introduced this week follows:
California Desert Protection and Recreation Act
Senator Feinstein introduced the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act. This bill will build on a decade of success in protecting the California desert, including President Obama’s 2016 designation of three national monuments in the California desert.
This new bill would create five off-road vehicle areas, designate 230,000 acres as wilderness areas, add 43,000 acres to Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, designate 77 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and clarify how desert land can be used for renewable energy development.
Feinstein said: “The new desert monuments designated last year form a cornerstone for future desert protection, but our work isn’t complete. I made a commitment to off-roaders and environmental groups to enact the entirety of last year’s bill, not just parts of it, and I intend to fulfill that promise.
“In addition to designating 230,000 acres of wilderness, protecting 77 miles of wild and free-flowing streams and rivers and adding 43,000 to our national parks, the bill also includes permanent protection for five off-highway recreation areas covering 142,000 acres. I’ve worked with off-roaders for years because I believe their use of the land should be protected just as it is for conservation purposes. I gave them my word that I’d fight for them and I intend to do so.”
The bill is the product of more than a decade of engagement with a range of stakeholders including environmental groups, local and state government officials, off-highway recreation enthusiasts, cattle ranchers, mining interests, the Department of Defense, wind and solar energy companies, California’s public utility companies and many others.
West Coast Ocean Protection Act
Senator Feinstein introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to permanently prohibit offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf of California, Oregon and Washington. She was joined on the bill by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
The Interior Department has prevented drilling in these waters in its five-year drilling plans, which extend through 2022. However, a permanent ban has not been signed into law.
“The environmental movement is rooted in the 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara. With an ocean economy of more than $44 billion, almost 500,000 people in California depend directly on a clean and healthy ocean for their livelihoods. It is time to enact a permanent ban on offshore drilling to protect our coast for generations to come,” said Senator Feinstein.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and 14 cosponsors.
Justice for Juvenile Victims of Sex Crimes
Senator Feinstein is joined by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) in introducing a bill to extend the civil statute of limitations for minor victims of sex crimes, including sex abuse and child pornography, to age 28.
Under current law, victims must file suit against their abusers within 10 years of the offense or by age 21. Cases filed later are dismissed, even though many victims do not even come forward about their abuse until later in life.
Feinstein said: “It often takes years for victims of child sexual abuse to come forward. They’re traumatized and may not fully understand what happened to them. It’s simply wrong for our laws to prevent these victims from seeking justice when they realize the extent of the crimes committed against them and are ready to come forward. Extending the statute of limitations is the right thing to do to support young victims.”
The bill would clarify that the clock on statute of limitations does not start until the minor victim discovers their injury or the violation. For example, if child does not discover that his or her image has been used in child pornography until years after the crimes were committed, the statute of limitations would begin to run when the discovery is made.
No Windfalls for Government Service Act
Senator Feinstein was an original cosponsor on a bill introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to amend a provision of the tax code that allows executive branch and judicial appointees to defer paying taxes on profits from assets they sell to comply with ethics rules. The bill would limit to $1 million the amount of capital gains that can be deferred under the program. There is currently no limit on the amount of profit that can be deferred. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) were also original cosponsors.
It is estimated that this provision allowed former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to avoid paying an estimated $200 million tax bill.
“It’s inappropriate for the federal government to provide excessive tax breaks to cabinet members in return for complying with ethics rules. Public service is an honor, and billionaires shouldn’t require federal tax breaks for their service. This bill appropriately limits tax benefits for wealthy cabinet members who must remove their own conflicts of interest,” said Senator Feinstein.
Independent commission to investigate Russian interference
Senator Feinstein was an original cosponsor this week of a bill introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to create an independent commission, modeled after the 9/11 Commission, to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was also an original cosponsor.
The bipartisan commission would be equipped with subpoena power and have access to both classified and unclassified information. It would be charged with investigating those individuals and entities responsible for hacking and developing recommendations to prevent similar interference in the future.
Feinstein said: “An attack against our election system is an attack on our very way of life and must not go unchallenged. We need this commission to determine if my personal belief is correct—that the real intent of what appears to be a classic Russian covert influence campaign was to harm the candidacy of the Democratic candidate or undermine our democratic system. This bipartisan commission will help identify the specific ‘actors’ responsible and recommend a possible course of action to prevent this from ever happening again.”